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What is the physical identity of the gap analysis model?

The physical identity is one of the four parts of the gap analysis model in which a brand can be distinguished. The other three components are the desired identity, the actual identity and the image of the brand.

A brand’s physical identity consists entirely of elements that can be perceived by one of the five senses: sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell. It concerns all parts by which a brand can be recognized and distinguished. This means that everything that an organization does that puts it in contact with an external interest group (customers, suppliers, shareholders, etc.) belongs to its physical identity.

A brand element can be anything in the physical identity, as long as it is actually verifiable. Someone’s opinion about the appearance of the brand is not an actual part of this and therefore does not belong to the physical identity. This is different for everyone. If it needs to be thought about, it is not physical. This is not a fixed brand element. It is useful to answer the following questions in order to be able to think of what does belong to the physical identity of the brand:
In what ways can a consumer come into contact with this brand?
How can a consumer recognize the brand?
In what ways does the company communicate the brand and the products/services to the target group?

The physical identity in five categories

According to the theory, physical identity can be divided into five categories with brand elements. It concerns the following five categories:
Products and services

  • Information
  • Symbolism
  • Surroundings
  • Behaviour


The products and services

Every organization has one or more products or services that it offers to the target group. At a supermarket, for example, the products are all the goods on the shelves and the delivery service of that same supermarket is an offered service. These are examples of contact points through which, for example, a customer is in contact with the organization and thus the brand.


Information refers to all communications to external interest groups. This includes, for example, all advertising that an organization makes for its products or services. This includes a cardboard display board and a shop window, as well as the website and a Facebook page.


Symbolism includes all recognizable style elements. Style elements make a brand and the associated organization recognizable in a certain environment. To name a few examples, these are a logo, a certain mascot (the man from or a certain recognizable house style (the leaning e of Heineken or the blue and orange of Coolblue).


The environment includes all things that an organization needs in order to operate. These are often physical items such as buildings (shops, factories or a head office), but also company vehicles and the excavators of a construction company. This can also be an event such as the Vrienden van Amstel Live, of which the beer brand Amstel can be seen everywhere as the main sponsor


How a certain employee behaves is called the behavior of a brand. This may include how an employee wears company clothing, but also the degree of formality in which the customer is addressed. The behavior of a brand is something personal on which the brand is expressed. For example, how does a store employee deal with a telephone complaint? All these things are considered part of the behavior of a brand.


In practice it is difficult to keep all these things separate. These bags often overlap quite a bit. For example, can an employee who tips a customer about an upcoming discount promotion be counted as ‘information’ or as ‘behaviour’? The same applies to the packaging of a product. Is this ‘products and services’ or is this ‘information’? So it is not really possible to draw a clear line between all these categories. They constantly overlap.

Perceiving a brand with senses: seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling and tasting
Most people will have five senses with which they perceive the world. In these same five ways, all parts of a brand can be perceived by customers, shareholders, suppliers and other outside interest groups.

Seeing a brand

First of all, the physical identity of a brand can consist of visual brand elements. This means that the physical identity first consists of all the things where someone can recognize the brand with his or her eyes. With most brands, this is a very large part of the entire brand. It is therefore quickly possible to overlook certain important things. You can think of:
Fixed style elements. This concerns matters such as the logo, the house style, a mascot and the graphically elaborated slogan.
means of communication. Think of the website, a p





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